Speech of Ambassador Romana Vlahutin at the Civil Society Forum LGBTI in the Political Agenda in Albania
Tirana, 06/04/2018 - 12:54, UNIQUE ID: 180406_5
Speeches of the Ambassador
I am happy to be with you all here today, in the Albanian Parliament as the forum of discussion on LGBTI issues. National Parliament is the natural place where rights and needs of all citizens are discussed, and especially the needs of those who are part of vulnerable groups. Every citizen of Albania is represented by this Parliament and should have her or his fundamental rights recognized and protected right here.
We need to recognize that the situation of the LGBT community in Albania has been improving in the past years, thanks to the dedication of courageous activists and civil society. Their work is crucial and the result of their effort is visible today: speaking publicly about LGBT is no longer a taboo, despite resistances and conservative ideas of too many.
But unfortunately, what happened in the last 2 weeks on social media – including a shameful hate speech by a former minister, and one current Member of Parliament, followed by the indifference of other political leaders and especially disappointing silence of the institutions which should protect individual rights– is nothing to be proud of. It made it clear that vulnerable groups in Albania, and one of these communities being the LGBTI community, are to this day often subject to discrimination, bullying, exclusion and, increasingly, hate-speech.
Membership in the European Union is a value choice. Respect of fundamental rights, tolerance and acceptance of diversity are values that are fundamental and define who we are as a Union. As such, they are not negotiable.
Albania has approved the LGBT Action Plan 2016-2020. The implementation of this plan requires strong commitment from the government and open minded approach by the parliament.
These efforts include regulating what is called Hate Speech. The recent episode is an example of how impunity of hate crime can poison the public space and harden the life of many.
A recent assessment commissioned by the EU identifies few important improvements that the Albania should implement to advance in this area:
Ensure that the definition of offline and online speech are similar, thus making the definition technology-independent;
Better define what an insult is: statement aimed to hurt the feeling of a person or a group of persons;
Encourage self-regulation by online media to reduce hate speech by writers and readers.
The progress of a country depends on its own people, on the way they treat their fellow citizens and tolerate diversity. The citizens of Albania know only too well what it means to be deprived of your fundamental rights, and I am absolutely certain that they would not want anyone in their society to be a victim of hate, and discrimination. The criminal time of segregation and reeducation is over, once and for ever. Albania is a democracy.
I am sure the people of Albania are ready to exercise that tolerance, if Albanian politicians are willing to guide this irreversible process and respect their commitment to the EU values, not only in laws and on paper, but in implementation and their own behavior.